Pornographers, spiritual and secular


I was just reading this thought-provoking essay by Alan Levinovitz, The Awful Pleasures of Spiritual Pornography. Oooh, “spiritual pornography”, I wonder what that is, I thought. Levinovitz provides two examples: this is a review of Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture by Anthony Esolen and The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by the unpleasant Rod Dreher. And I have to say, this kind of pornography isn’t fun at all.

…the soul of these books is not love of God; it is bitter loathing of those who do not share it. They are a kind of spiritual pornography that works against spiritual regret, designed to arouse climactic cries of Yes! Yes! in its readers, pleasing the soul’s darker parts by swapping a hollow fantasy of physical union for an equally hollow fantasy of moral warfare: a Manichean vision of a virtuous few battling mightily against everyone else.

The basic engine of what I read — and its intended effect on readers — is little different from that of 19th-century anti-Catholic literature, the Left Behind series, Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, and Jack Chick’s wild-eyed cartoon tracts. Spiritual pornography, in all of its incarnations, stars easy heroes and villains. The heroes are idealizations of the target audience, which encourages narcissism, and the villains are caricatures of The Other, which encourages bigotry. And although a little spiritual pornography probably does no lasting harm, frequent, concentrated doses can seriously damage individual souls, and, worse, society at large.

I have to wonder if Dreher would find the comparison to Jack Chick to be terribly déclassé, but still rather flattering, in a vulgar way. He might think you’ve gone a bit too far if you point out another example of spiritual pornography, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which similarly treats the outgroup as literal child-murdering servants of Satan. But then this review makes a fairly safe accusation: that it’s not Jews or Catholics that are the new targets, but those damned liberal secularists. Dreher and Esolen would be fine with that, because their entire oeuvre is about how they deserve condemnation.

“Anti-Catholicism has always been the pornography of the Puritan,” observed Richard Hofstadter in his classic essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” using as his exemplar a hugely popular 19th-century fabrication by one Maria Monk, who accused priests of systematically raping nuns, then baptizing and murdering whatever children resulted.

The 21st-century equivalent is not anti-Catholic but anti-secular, a category capacious enough for atheists, reform Jews, New Age mystics, nihilist Nietzscheans, even liberal Christians — the last of these described by Dreher, derisively, as “moralistic therapeutic deists,” and Esolen, appallingly, as Persecutors and Quislings — anti-anyone, really, whose religiosity is deemed less austere than that of the pornographer.

Calling spiritual pornography a fantasy helps to evoke its psychological appeal, but the world it conjures up is closer to that of the fairy tale. Both genres are built on two foundational features: dramatic arcs that proceed from Order to Disorder to Order, and clearly defined roles and rules that map neatly onto good and evil. It’s a world that trades humans for archetypes, nuance for simplicity, and the tangled skein of history for the orderly vectors of myth — but if you’re on the side of the angels, living in it feels really, really good.

I have to confess that I think this is where the atheist movement has gone astray, and has too often veered into secular pornography — we possess a kernel of truth, that there is absolutely no evidence for gods, or even a coherent definition of what a god is, and it’s all too easy to segue from that grain of true knowledge to an absolute certainty that those who don’t agree with us are total idiots in all things. We demonize them right back.

It gets worse when the only time atheists find common cause with religious absolutists is when they find another scapegoat to abuse. Right now we have a sect of atheists who have decided that one religious group, the Muslims, are wronger than another religious group, the Christians, so they argue about which one is more evil and form alliances to wage war on whole cultures and suggest that maybe we should convert them from one wrong philosophy to another wrong philosophy as a tool of pacification.

What we should be arguing, as atheists, is that all of them are wrong about the indefensible god-nonsense, but that all of them, like us, are humans who have one life to live, and who come from long lines of humans with rich histories and diverse cultures that we ought to acknowledge and respect. Our obligation as atheists is to protect the rights and dignity of all of our fellow human beings, not to use differences in belief as a pretext to deny those rights and dignities to other human beings. We should, as people of science, be in universal agreement that all people are people, with equal rights, including a right to live and think freely.

Yes, it feels really, really good to live in the reality of True Science and Reason. It feels a lot less good when you’re trapped in that reality with people who seriously argue that all those outside of our shared intellectual domain ought to be arrested, deported, bombed, and tortured, who doubt the intellectual capacity of people with darker skins, or people who were brought up in a different faith tradition. You’ve joined the so-called Rationality Club only to discover it’s also open to secular pornographers.

It’s kind of disillusioning.

Comments

  1. A Masked Avenger says

    Yep, there’s no question that Christians get off on the thought that they’re soldiers in a holy war against Satan Himself — an invisible and supernatural drama that unfolds every day, with daily news about Nicki Minaj (or whatever) constituting the maneuvers of the satanic forces, and the 700 Club (or whatever) the march of the forces of light. Since the struggle is almost entirely imaginary, it’s not surprising that Christians are fundamentally spectators rather than “warriors,” and the battle is almost entirely vicarious — where saying a prayer or donating to Pat Robertson replace actual sorties into enemy territory.

    What troubles me is (as you hint in your OP) that a similar manichaeism pervades American culture, including secular and especially political culture. Republicans overlap significantly with fundies, so it’s not surprising that they see the political sphere as just another battlefield of their god vs. Satan. But secular progressives are far from immune to the same type of thinking. When we portray Republican voters as pure evil, or otherwise dehumanize them, we’re doing it.

    The mass of Trump voters includes many people who just want their coal-mining job (or whatever) to come back — they’re deeply ignorant (e.g., of the reasons coal is never coming back), and credulous (that Trump will “drain the swamp” rather than wallow in it), and perhaps xenophobic (thinking immigration is responsible for their unemployment; not necessarily out of animus toward foreigners per se), but to a significant degree many, perhaps most, of them are victims. Partly of their own ignorance, and partly of others’ cynical willingness to exploit that ignorance. And it’s pretty damn frustrating that people cling to their ignorance, but sadly we’re wired that way.

    In fact, to the extent that we’re right and they’re wrong about stuff, we’re right by pure luck much more than we would care to admit. Most of us come from liberal regions, like the coastlines, and hold progressive views not because we carefully considered the alternatives and arrived at our views by rigorous empirical methods, but because the rest of our tribe held those views. Most of us, if raised in rural West Virginia, would just want to know why the fuck the coal mine is closed, and why the fuck people are hiring immigrants but not us. And why the fuck fancy-schmancy city boys with their college degrees think they’re so much smarter than us.

    Anyway, much as we need to be unrelenting in opposing Trump’s (and the GOP’s) policies, we are not locked in a manichaean struggle of good versus evil. We are not pure good; they are not pure evil; and Trump (much as I’m convinced he’s a textbook case of NPD) is not a secular version of the devil. He’s just an idiot with a personality disorder who bumbled into the presidency on a perfect storm of hubris, sycophancy, and ignorance.

  2. Siobhan says

    What we should be arguing, as atheists, is that all of them are wrong about the indefensible god-nonsense, but that all of them, like us, are humans who have one life to live, and who come from long lines of humans with rich histories and diverse cultures that we ought to acknowledge and respect. Our obligation as atheists is to protect the rights and dignity of all of our fellow human beings, not to use differences in belief as a pretext to deny those rights and dignities to other human beings. We should, as people of science, be in universal agreement that all people are people, with equal rights, including a right to live and think freely.

    We should, yes, but if this thread catches on like the others do, it’s only a matter of time before you’re called an SJW beta cuck, as if this disproves the notion that atheism, too, has its selection of jackasses.

    My mental health has improved greatly upon embracing the mantra “there are no heroes.” Might spare you a couple points of blood pressure. :P

  3. says

    From the first sentence, PZ––and then with the reference to Chick tracts––my imagination jumped directly to that particular variety of Atheist who targets one religion and seeks out the sort of stimulation that keeps himself excited about being atheist. The target of that particular variety of excitement is usually Islam (in my experience) and it’s usually without care to distinguish the worst radicals from the mere faithful or the conventional or just those who identify by virtue of cultural habit. That excitement rarely translates into a critique of the social structures one inhabits.

    Spiritual pornography, now that I have that description in mind, might characterize the content of many atheist, itinerant preachers, who seem more interested in book sales than human lives and social structures.

  4. says

    I agree with you, PZ. I wrote about the Benedict Option some time back, and while it’s easy enough to poke fun, or to encourage such a thing, ie., “yes, please go form communities, go away!” I was thinking of all the times I’ve seen atheists put forth similar thoughts: “isn’t there some way we could form a community that was purely secular?” an so forth. We humans are not good at the whole everyone should have basic human rights business. We are good at tribalism.

  5. unclefrogy says

    wonderful essay and well said.
    I have to respond to the very last statement with complete agreement. I have become aware lately that if enlightenment is a thing and reason is a process by which understanding can be arrived at using tools like those used by science then it is a process of separating truth from illusion. For me it is one long path toward total disillusion it is so long because it is pleasant to cling to some illusions as was described. It feels so good to be “RIGHT”!
    I will express my doubt that not many here and not many in the liberal progressive side of politics would be so if their peers had not been so. There are and have always been people in coal country for example who have seen through the illusion and understand all too well the source of many of their problems and it is not the immigrant labor nor the liberals. I would suggest that any who doubt that acquaint themselves with Mother Jones, Joe Hill and coal mine labor union history. In every region there is to be found movements and people who made them who have apposed the exploitation by the rich and powerful, who fought and still fight against ignorance and bigotry.

    uncle frogy

  6. busterggi says

    God is the ultimate Mary-Sue – “what would I (a believer) be like if I had every super power I can think of?”

  7. brucej says

    Anyway, much as we need to be unrelenting in opposing Trump’s (and the GOP’s) policies, we are not locked in a manichaean struggle of good versus evil. We are not pure good; they are not pure evil;

    Perhaps, but what we want is for them to acknowledge reality, find places we can work together to better the commonweal and accept our rights to exist and engage as equals. What they want is, at best, to subordinate us to their rule, and at worst, to die.

    Dreher explicitly wants my place in civil society to reduced or eliminated, because I don’t follow his beliefs.

    Margaret Atwood said it far more succinctly: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”

  8. A Masked Avenger says

    Perhaps, but what we want is for them to acknowledge reality, find places we can work together to better the commonweal and accept our rights to exist and engage as equals. What they want is, at best, to subordinate us to their rule, and at worst, to die.

    “They”? My main point is that “they” aren’t as homogeneous as all that. Republican policies consistently benefit a privileged few; for the rest, it’s more or less a coin flip. The people who vote for them do it for various reasons. One of the more common reasons is to protect them from the demonized “other.” Someone terrified them, and then designated an “other” to be the target of their fear. The technique works reliably on all sorts of people and regardless of the target — whether it’s Jews, or witches, or commies, or North Vietnamese, or Muslims, or libruls.

    Progressives are also susceptible to fear of the other, as I said and to some extent you’ve demonstrated. “They want to subordinate us to their will, or [for us] to die.” Really? 63 million Americans want you to submit or die? Lucky they’re lazy fuckers, then, because extrapolating from ThinkProgress’s numbers, and assuming each hate crime has a unique perpetrator, only about 1,000 of them per year actually gets off their asses and commits a hate crime. They may say they want you dead, but hardly any of them is actually doing anything about it…

    In painting them all with one brush as racists, fundies, etc., is also a cheap way of letting ourselves off the hook. Portland, Oregon is a progressive bastion that Hillary got 73% of the vote there — and it’s also a hive of racism. Not all racists love Trump.

  9. A Masked Avenger says

    I will express my doubt that not many here and not many in the liberal progressive side of politics would be so if their peers had not been so.

    It doesn’t explain everyone’s political orientation: I was raised in a Republican family and deconverted from both Republicanism and fundie-ism. But political views correlate most excellently with the views of one’s family, friends, and neighbors. There’s ample empirical evidence that for a majority of folks of every persuasion, careful weighing of the options and impartial selection ain’t how they ended up where they are.

  10. KG says

    A Masked Avenger@1,9,
    You have a point, – not all Republicans are neo-Nazis, or even dyed-in-the-wool racists, but polls of Trump voters indicate that racial resentment, not economic factors or fears are the best predictor of support for him. The linked article was published before the election, but I’ve seen similar results from after it.

  11. Akira MacKenzie says

    I can’t believe what I’m reading right now, and here of all places.

    For years, I’ve been reading this blog. For years, I’ve read PZ and many of the frequent posters here warn me about the growing threat of the Christian Right, speaking glowingly of the virtues of progress and secularism, and how atheists have been treated like shit. Now I’m reading that… gee… maybe we’re being just as bad as our enemies by pointing out what scum they are. Maybe the bigots, misogynists, Republicans, and Creationists aren’t evil, they’re just misunderstood. I mean, Klansmen are people too, right? Maybe if we were just nicer.

    And it’s not just here. Everywhere I turn in the supposedly Left-leaning bloggerosphere I’m coming across more and more commentators who think that we’re just being way too mean to the shit-kicking rednecks who are fucking up our world. Maybe we just ought to give Milo and Coulter there podium, let them have their say, and let the Court of Public Opinion decide. Surely, they’ll rationally come to our side, right? Right?

    It’s over. Trump, the Right, and the Bible-humpers have won. In the course of a decade, they’d worn what already laughably passed for a Left-wing in America to a bunch of hand-wringing wimps who actually think that punching a Nazi is somehow just as bad as actually being a Nazi. Now, when the fee-fees of the forces of evil (and YES THEY ARE MOTHER FUCKING EVIL) are threatened, all those lofty goals and dreams suddenly take a back seat because it’s more important that we be one big happy family, even with those who are working to destroy us.

    We’re “othering” them? We’re “dehumanizing” them? BOO FUCKING HOO!

    It’s no wonder liberals can’t win in this shithole of a country.

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    …not all Republicans are neo-Nazis, or even dyed-in-the-wool racists…

    Really? Name one.

  13. says

    For years, I’ve read PZ and many of the frequent posters here warn me about the growing threat of the Christian Right, speaking glowingly of the virtues of progress and secularism, and how atheists have been treated like shit. Now I’m reading that… gee… maybe we’re being just as bad as our enemies by pointing out what scum they are.

    That is a very…peculiar…reading of what I wrote. This is a response to a critical review of two books by the evangelical right that harshly rejects their Manichaean worldview. I agree with that: that part of the threat of the Christian right is that they characterize entire large groups of people as evil and deserving of death, which is a dangerous position to take. One can believe that Islam or Catholicism or the prosperity gospel are wicked and stupid without simultaneously believing that that justifies torture or bombing or deportation, you know.

    It also does not mean we want to be one big happy family with Nazis. Only that one should make sure you’re dealing with a real fucking Nazi before punching them in the face.

  14. A Masked Avenger says

    Now I’m reading that… gee… maybe we’re being just as bad as our enemies by pointing out what scum they are. Maybe the bigots, misogynists, Republicans, and Creationists aren’t evil, they’re just misunderstood. I mean, Klansmen are people too, right?

    Right! Because that’s exactly what I said! Er, rather, that’s the precise opposite of what I said. I said that Trump had 63 million voters, and the SPLC estimates that there are 8,000 Klansmen in the United States (that’s Klansmen, not racists, but you specifically did say Klansmen). That leaves approximately 62,992,000 Trump voters that aren’t Klansmen. And yet, strangely, you introduced “Klansmen” into the conversation as if it were a synonym for “Trump voter,” thereby question-begging your way around my precise point that the majority of Trump voters are not in fact Klansmen.

    But I recognize what you’re doing, because I did it a lot when I was a fundie. Distorting what other people said into something grotesque, so I could reaffirm how evil they are and thus how righteous I was. It was a great feeling, even if I didn’t climax every time. (I hope you had a box of kleenex handy.)

    Hint: you’re doing to me precisely what I said we should be careful not to do. You’ve distorted my comment into a full-throated defense of the KKK, for gob’s sake! To what end? Not to facilitate communication between you and me, certainly: now that I’m apparently a klanner, why would you want to communicate with me? After all, I’m pure evil, and you’re pure good!

    Whatever your intention, you’ve illustrated my point magnificently. We are no less prone to tribalism and manichaeism than they are, because these are fundamental human traits that require concerted effort to overcome. They’re just a softer target, because they wear their manichaeism on their sleeves (often literally!).

  15. A Masked Avenger says

    That is a very…peculiar…reading of what I wrote. This is a response to a critical review of two books by the evangelical right that harshly rejects their Manichaean worldview. I agree with that: that part of the threat of the Christian right is that they characterize entire large groups of people as evil and deserving of death, which is a dangerous position to take. One can believe that Islam or Catholicism or the prosperity gospel are wicked and stupid without simultaneously believing that that justifies torture or bombing or deportation, you know.

    PZ, I think Akira’s comment was aimed at my comment, not at your OP. (When you say “that’s a peculiar reading,” I’m not sure if you’re referring to Akira’s comment or to mine, so I’m not sure if this clarification was necessary.)

    My comment wasn’t meant to contradict the OP, but to serve as a counterpoint. Manichaeism is one of the defining traits of authoritarians, including most fundies and most of the American right. It’s not their exclusive province, however, and doing morality right entails recognizing our own weaknesses honestly. To lift a line from Feynman, we must not fool ourselves — and we are the easiest ones to fool.

  16. Akira MacKenzie says

    PZ and Masked Avenger:

    I’m not “distorting” anything, but that is the impression I got from Levinovitz’s article and your responses to it. What I got was this (and please correct me where I’m wrong):

    1. The Christian Right indulges in tales of persecution, tribalism, demonizing their enemies, and “othering.”
    2. The Secular Left does it too!
    3. That’s baaaaaad.

    Of course, there is no analysis or judgement whether or not either narrative is true. Are Trump voters racist? Are atheists being treated like garbage in America? Does the Right have beliefs and policies that are detrimental to civilization? That should be the only thing that matters, not that we have the gall to call the bad guys “bad.”

    I don’t care if I’m “othering” those who are destroying the world. I don’t sweat the thought of demonizing demons. I won’t shed a tear for making the scum who are dragging this civilization down seem inhuman, because they’re not.

    PZ @ 14:

    It also does not mean we want to be one big happy family with Nazis. Only that one should make sure you’re dealing with a real fucking Nazi before punching them in the face.

    Oh, I think they’ve made their beliefs and intentions glaringly obvious long, long ago. What more do they have to do?

    Masked Avenger @ 15:

    I said that Trump had 63 million voters, and the SPLC estimates that there are 8,000 Klansmen in the United States (that’s Klansmen, not racists, but you specifically did say Klansmen). That leaves approximately 62,992,000 Trump voters that aren’t Klansmen. And yet, strangely, you introduced “Klansmen” into the conversation as if it were a synonym for “Trump voter,” thereby question-begging your way around my precise point that the majority of Trump voters are not in fact Klansmen.

    So we’re resorting to #NotAllRepublicans now? We’re going to quibble over the actual membership rolls of a hate group and the number of people in a political party who sympathize with the goals of that hate group? I submit that you don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the Klan to be be a Klansman, you just need to agree with the fuckers.

    I was on the conservative side of the political spectrum for a huge chunk of my life. I was born into it, raised by it. I know what the “mainstream right” is like and how they think and it’s really no different than the “far right.” The scrubbed, business-casual-wearing public face of the Right is just quieter about the insanity it shares with the rustic yokels who beat Bibles and burn crosses. I assure you, they’re the same evil.

    I ask again, name a Republican (or a conservative, or a libertarian, or whatever the fuck they’re calling themselves these days) who ISN’T a racist, or a sexist, or a homophobe, or a capitalist, etc.. I suspect you’ll be hard pressed to do so.

  17. unclefrogy says

    @10

    let me say that a little differently I have doubts about simple answers to complex questions such as those found in politics and political belief. The implications of liberals being primarily coastal is incorrect and a distortion promulgated by the conservatives in their strategy of divide and rule. It is part of the tactic by which they have succeeded in getting the majority of voters to vote against their own self-interest.
    I would take yourself as an example of the truth that the politics we have is not what everyone around us has
    uncle frogy

  18. A Masked Avenger says

    I don’t care if I’m “othering” those who are destroying the world…

    You keep doing that. Trump stands a non-trivial chance of being directly responsible for the extinction of all humankind, if in fact (a) it’s still possible to prevent runaway global warming, (b) his regression on the environment loses us that window of opportunity, and (c) we fail to survive the ensuing runaway global warming. Not precisely “destroying the world,” in that the Earth will still be here and will still have some sort of biosphere after the ensuing great extinction event, but certainly “destroying the world” if you consider human extinction to be tragedy enough to merit that description. On this point I assume we are in perfect agreement.

    Buy your phrasing accuses 63 million Americans of “destroying the world.” The vast majority of them have voted against their own best interests — meaning their immediate interests, not the survival of the species in general. They were sold a bill of goods and will be good and thoroughly fucked as a result. Specifically: vast numbers of them benefit from Obamacare but are about to lose it — having been successfully propagandized that Obamacare is bad, and not realizing that they are on Obamacare. Vast numbers of them are uneducated and relatively unskilled, and fear losing their jobs to exploited, undocumented laborers — having been successfully convinced to displace the blame onto those exploited workers, instead of their exploiters, and little realizing that Trump is as likely as not to accelerate the exploitation in service of the 1%.

    I’m not painting them in rosy hues; I’m perfectly aware of Bob Altmeyer’s research into authoritarian followers, for example, and I know firsthand about fundamentalism. I merely point out that you consistently attempt to lump millions of dupes and fools in with the few hundred (few thousand at the most) who actually profit from Trump’s presidency and actively seek harmful policies which many, perhaps most, of those dupes and fools would oppose if they actually understood them.

    I ask again, name a Republican (or a conservative, or a libertarian, or whatever the fuck they’re calling themselves these days) who ISN’T a racist, or a sexist, or a homophobe, or a capitalist, etc…

    Is that a trick question? You’re a racist. I’m a racist. Hopefully you’re aware of systemic and subtle racism, and the way they’re so intrinsic to our culture that they’re almost inescapable? So in that sense I don’t know any Democrat who isn’t a racist either.

    But you clearly mean something more than that. You mean to suggest that all 63 million people who voted for Trump are actively racist. I CAN provide plenty of counterexamples, but that’s not the point: no number of counterexamples will matter to you, because you still believe it’s reasonable to make such an absurd claim. If I provided 50 counterexamples, AND you accepted them as legit, you would simply go on believing that there are 62,999,950 racist Trump voters and 50 who are not overtly racist but who voted for Trump anyway.

    Once again, you illustrate my point: you’re demonstrating a textbook example of manichaeism.

    I don’t think you’ve thought this through, though. If the US contains 63 million people who are racist, sexist, homophobic, determined to destroy the environment, crush the poor, and forcibly convert everyone to Christianity, who are utterly beyond the reach of any reason or dissuasion, then there is only one solution: they will enslave or eradicate all humanity unless they are exterminated. Whether or not you realize it, you are arguing for their extermination. But good luck, chuck: they have all the guns. Of the 35 million households that own America’s 265 million guns, 60% voted for Trump. I’d also bet that the 3% of gun-owning households that own 50% of the guns almost certainly all went for Trump.

    The weirdest thing, though, is how alike you think: you and the gun nuts share a firmly rooted belief that each other is beyond the reach of any persuasion whatsoever, and that sooner or later one side or the other must be eradicated.

  19. A Masked Avenger says

    I submit that you don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the Klan to be be a Klansman, you just need to agree with the fuckers.

    A majority on the right disagree with the Klan. In fact their disagreement with the Klan is proof, in their eyes, that they are not racist. Bob Altmeyer actually mentions in his book that using the N-word turns off conservatives. That’s why dog whistles are necessary: not to fool the left, who aren’t fooled, but to facilitate the right fooling themselves. Even Trump, who constantly uses his outside voice inside, resorted to dog-whistles. He didn’t refer to Mexicans with the s-word, or “the blacks” with the n-word. Why? To fool Akira? No. To fool himself. He doesn’t think he’s racist. The n-word is for racists, not him.

    The more you shift from overt to subtle racism, the more you’re talking about racism of which we’re all guilty. The main difference between right-wing fundie me and me today is that I realize that privilege and systemic racism are real. I never had ill-will toward minorities: just a lot of unexamined assumptions. Mainly the assumption that the playing field was level between us, and anything that’s true for myself would be equally true for them. I stepped on my dick a lot, as you can well imagine — but I still do today, sadly. I’m better than I was, but the programming of a lifetime of privilege is hard to escape. The main difference is that I realize that it’s a problem now.

    A Democrat is more likely to recognize that privilege is real. A Republican is more likely to deny it. In fact I would consider that the most important distinction: whether or not one recognizes privilege and systemic racism. Relatively few actively hate black people. Almost all perpetuate the problem by accepting, and passing on, the assumptions that underpin systemic racism. In that sense I would recognize almost all Republicans and/or Trump voters as racist. But that definition of racism is incompatible with a manichaean notion of “evil.” Failing to escape the shackles imposed from birth by one’s culture is a tragedy, not a crime.

    You seem determined to recognize them all as evil, and to support that view you keep suggesting that they’re all Klan sympathizers, even though only one percent of one percent of them actually belong to the Klan. It’s just objectively false.

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